August 2017 July 2017 - Page 23

Finance News No more roaming charges Roaming charges were abolished within Europe last month. However, consumer groups warned that there are still pitfalls which could result in unexpectedly high mobile phone bills. EU regulators agreed in 2015 that mobile users should be offered the same service across the European Economic Area (EEA), and that operators should be forced to provide this. The campaign slogan “Roam Like Home” promotes the fact that voice calls, texting and data usage while travelling abroad in the EU and elsewhere will be deducted from the monthly package which the consumer has contracted in the home country with no extra charges. However, exceeding agreed minutes, texts and data will still be charged as it would in the consumer’s home country. Different providers are operating different policies and may charge substantially extra for over-use of data when abroad. Alex Neill, managing director of home products and services, for UK consumer group Which? has emphasised the importance of customers taking a close look at what is and what is not included in their current mobile deal. “Not knowing what’s included,” he said, “could lead to some surprising charges on the next bill.” Which? says that it is important to check the contract because each telecoms operator is free to set its own limits on minutes, texts and data downloads, and will charge its own extra fees for use in excess of these. It also notes that all states in the EEA are covered in the legislation which means the 28 EU states, plus Switzerland, the Channel Islands, Iceland, the Isle of Man and Liechtenstein. However, some operators have added additional countries, such as Turkey, the US and Australia, so this contract information should also be checked by anyone planning to travel widely. One of the biggest misconceptions about Roam Like Home appears to be that it works both ways, whereas in practice, it does not. The regulations only apply to roaming while abroad, not to calling other countries from the customer’s home country. Prices for making international calls vary significantly between operators. Thus, holiday-makers calling home during their Spanish holiday will benefit, but if they call to book their favourite restaurant in Madrid before leaving home, they will be charged the appropriate international rate set by their operator. Wait until after arriving in Spain when the call will be charged at the Spanish domestic rate. Which? says smaller operators score well on this issue. For example, it says that UK operator Giffgaff charges 94 per cent less than O2 for a call from the UK to Spain, despite the fact it uses O2’s network. It adds that some pay-as-you-go customers get better deals on international calls than pay-monthly clients, so once again, check the contract details. Finally, and before you ask, no-one is sure what will happen to UK mobile phone subscribers travelling abroad after Brexit.